The Oxford Dictionary Definition for the Term Hypnosis
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The Oxford Dictionary definition for the term Hypnosis:
“The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behaviour, has been revived but is still controversial.”[(1) – Oxforddictionaries.com]
The origin of the word hypnosis is from Greek Hypnos sleep + -osis.
We can see from the Oxford Dictionary definition that people are curiously sceptical about the effectiveness of hypnosis. Many sceptics only have experience of stage hypnosis and relate all hypnosis to the bizarrely entertaining realms; they see the whole idea of hypnosis as a gimmick or a setup, only believed by the most gullible in society.
However, those with experience of clinical hypnosis understand its ability to heal and modify behaviour effectively.
As the understanding of clinical hypnosis is becoming more recognised by the medical profession and more referrals are being made by GPs, so the general publics opinion and faith in the practice is becoming more widely accepted as an effective method of healing.
A modern day desire to be able to scientifically quantify the effectiveness in relation to a quantifiable input makes hypnotherapy a difficult subject to entirely trust. However, with the advancement in science and the ability to now monitor the actual brain waves at which an individual is functioning during different stages of the hypnotic trance experience, has helped with the understanding of how hypnosis actually works.
There are four main types of brain waves which are identifiable due to their varying frequency. The fastest being the Beta waves and the slowest being the Delta Waves.
Beta waves (15-40 cycles per second)
Here a person is focused and engaged
Alpha Waves (9 – 14 cycles per second)
Slower Pace- slower breathing and pulse
Withdrawn into self, during creativity or problem solving.
Trance Theta Waves (4-8 cycles per second)
Meditative state, Calmness, hypnosis most possible.
Subconscious, Past experiences are held here, Intensified imagery
Delta Waves (1-4 cycles per second)
Produced in the subconscious
Detached awareness – dont hear things around you.
The method used to measure the electrical activity of the brain is called electroencephalography (EEG)
There is evidence of cultures dating back to ancient times, using hypnosis as a form of healing; the Ancient Egyptians; Australian Aborigines; North American Indians; and Hindu and Vedic cultures to name a few.
Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) an Austrian doctor recognised the power of this phenomenon and incorporated it into the development of his own method of healing. “Mesmer believed that a cosmic fluid could be stored in inanimate objects, such as magnets and transferred to patients to cure them of illness.” [(3) – Hadley and Staudacher – Hypnosis for Change. pg14)] Mesmer soon developed this, regarding himself as the magnet through which healing or body balancing forces could flow. He called his theory “Animal Magnetism.” As no evidence was available to support Mesmers theory it was generally believed that his patients were cured because they expected to be and believed that they would be cured. His patients we literally “Mesmerised.”
We have all heard of, and possibly used the term, “I was mesmerised by ….” without giving a second thought to its origin. Just as we have all experienced a trance state without knowing it; we have all been mesmerised.
“Mesmerism became the forerunner of hypnotic suggestion.”[ (4) Hadley and Staudacher – Hypnosis for Change – .pg15]
Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur (1751-1825), a follower of Mesmers work continued healing people using Mesmers Animal magnetism theory. The Marquis of Puysegur began to notice a pattern forming, where most of his patients that he was mesmerising seemed to enter a deep sleep. He developed his method of inducing a sleeping trance in preference to the original methods of Mesmer. “Puységur, however, always portrayed himself as a faithful disciple of Mesmer, and never took credit for having invented the procedure that is now known as hypnotic induction.” [(5) Ellenberger, Henri – Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, pg. 70.]
James Braid (1795-1860) adopted the term “hypnosis” as an abbreviation for “neuro-hypnosis” or nervous sleep (that is, sleep of the nerves). The word “Hypnos” being the Greek word for sleep. Braid gave a scientific explanation to mesmerism; he showed that patients were more susceptible to verbal suggestions when they were in a sleep like trance.
How do does Modern day Hypnosis work?
As mentioned earlier there are varying levels of consciousness which can be measured in the type of brainwaves a person is displaying at any one time. The Theta Waves, are the level at which hypnosis is most likely to successfully occur. However it is important to accept that no two people will have identical experiences or will be open to suggestions at exactly the same time as they flow through their brain wave frequencies. Hypnosis can also occur at both Alpha and Delta wavelengths.
The Hypnotherapist will take the client through a series of trance inductions. The first being the progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). This was developed by Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. The hypnotherapist will assist the client in reducing any anxiety they may have by relaxing muscular tension. PMR involves both physical and mental components. The physical involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body, usually sequentially from head to toe. The mental component keeps